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at the

Mars Society Convention

Michael D. Griffin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

3 August 2006

Good morning, and thank you very much for inviting me to be the

warm-up act for Elon Musk.

But before we get to that, let me say that it’s good to be among

fellow space travelers like the Mars Society. You all want to turn the

stuff of science fiction into reality, as do I. Many of you are fellow

engineers and scientists with whom I share a common passion, for which

the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and the Ares crew and heavy-lift launch

vehicles, are only the first steps on a long journey to the Moon, Mars,

and future destinations in the solar system.

So, allow me a few minutes to share some of my thoughts for your

consideration about where we are and where we are going in this

journey. I know that some of you are frustrated by how arduous our

journey has been even to this point, and by the many challenges we still

face before embarking on mankind’s first journey to Mars. As someone

who has devoted his career to the space business, I share these

frustrations. But I also think that a bit of perspective might be in order.

This morning, I hope to provoke some thinking among you, as

members of the Mars Society, to try to look at NASA’s overall mission,

rather than at the single goal of a voyage to Mars.

Many of you know that I am an admirer of NASA’s greatest

Administrator, James Webb. Webb once characterized his role during

the Apollo program in the following way: “The process of management

became that of fusing at many levels a large number of forces, some

countervailing, into a cohesive, but essentially unstable whole, and

keeping it in the desired direction.” This is it, exactly, and that

perspective serves me well today. There are many disparate goals held

by NASA’s numerous stakeholders, and we try – very hard – to move

the agency forward in a manner which promotes unity among, rather

than division between, these stakeholders. It is not easy.

If the blunt truth be told, prior to the loss of the Space Shuttle

Columbia a few years ago, NASA suffered from a long period of benign

neglect by both the public and our government stakeholders concerning

the broader purposes of our nation’s space enterprise, especially human

spaceflight. NASA’s last mission to the Moon was in 1972, and our

nation, as a matter of policy at the highest levels, had chosen to confine

itself to low Earth orbit ever since. As I have said on many, many

previous occasions, I believe this to have been a crucial strategic mistake

for our nation.

We have come a long way since the dark days of the Columbia

accident in building a consensus as to what goals are worthy of our

nation’s civil space program. After a lengthy national discourse, the

bold challenge of the President’s Vision for Space Exploration was

endorsed by the Congress in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. I

firmly believe that the Vision is the proper lasting legacy for the

astronauts who perished in the Columbia accident. It sets a course in

space for our generation and, indeed, future generations. The law

charges the NASA Administrator to “establish a program to develop a

sustained human presence on the Moon, including a robust precursor

program, to promote exploration, science, commerce, and United States

preeminence in space, as a stepping-stone to future exploration of Mars

and other destinations.” This is wonderful direction. It tells NASA to

make the United States, once again, a spacefaring nation. Nothing more

is necessary, and nothing less is appropriate.

The law charges NASA to carry out certain specific programs with

the following milestones:

• Return Americans to the Moon no later than 2020;

• Launch the Crew Exploration Vehicle as close to 2010 as possible,

and not later than 2014;

• Increase knowledge of the impacts of long duration stays in space on

the human body using the most appropriate facilities available,

including the International Space Station; and

• Enable humans to land on and return from Mars and other

destinations on a timetable that is technically and fiscally possible.

With this, NASA’s stakeholders at the White House and Congress

have provided clear direction on the policies and programs that the

Agency must carry out. And so, while some of you might wish it to be

otherwise, NASA’s strategic goals are neither solely nor initially

focused upon Mars. We are charged with carrying out a broad portfolio

of missions in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics

research. With the resources projected to be available to NASA over the

next five years, properly balanced with our other national priorities of

Earth and space science as well as aeronautics research, NASA is on

course to complete the International Space Station by 2010 and to bring

the CEV on-line no later than 2014.

This is a national imperative. With the retirement of the Space

Shuttle by 2010, a far more urgent concern to me than a future mission

to Mars is taking steps to ensure that we have a smooth transition from

the Space Shuttle to the CEV, and to commercial cargo and crew

transport services to the International Space Station. Thus, we plan to

award a contract for the design and development of the CEV next

month, and in the coming weeks ahead, we hope to enter into Space Act

Agreements with commercial firms to demonstrate Space Station re-

supply capabilities. As I have said previously, if cost-effective

commercial services are demonstrated to support the ISS, NASA will

welcome and use them.

So, let me be clear about what is at the forefront of our attention at

NASA. The greatest management challenge we face over the next

several years is the safe and effective transition to the new Exploration

systems by completing the remaining Space Shuttle missions for the

assembly of the International Space Station, followed by retirement of

the Space Shuttle in 2010 to allow greater focus on missions beyond

LEO. We now have a clear goal for the future. Our current activities

can and must be focused to advance that goal. The remaining ISS

assembly missions and Space Shuttle flights will allow us to advance

knowledge and help train the next generations of space explorers.

And, more broadly, I believe that the most important aspect of the

International Space Station is the tried and tested partnership that has

been forged among the spacefaring nations of Canada, Europe, Japan,

Russia, and the United States. This partnership has endured tremendous

hardships, and stands by itself as a monumental international

accomplishment. We can learn from this experience, and expand on its

positive aspects as we move forward to the Moon and Mars.

At this stage in the development of our plans, it is important that

NASA not prescribe roles and responsibilities for future international

partnerships. Instead, we have defined a minimalist Exploration

architecture with the CEV, the crew- and heavy-lift launch vehicles, and

a lunar lander, as the first critical elements, with the hope that

international and commercial partners will want to augment these

capabilities with their own. We’re already collaborating with other

nations on a series of satellite missions to map the resources of the

Moon, and I hope that we’ll collaborate on even more missions to the

Moon and Mars.

This year, we’ve hosted workshops in order to discuss with our

international partners, scientific communities, and commercial interests

what each of us might do, and what we might do together, in exploring

and utilizing the Moon. I hope to issue a plan later this fall based on the

feedback from those workshops. One of the main reasons why these

discussions for future collaborations in exploiting the Moon have been

so fruitful is that, despite many trials and tribulations, the United States

has shown itself to be a good partner on the International Space Station.

We need to continue that.

Also this year, we’ve celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Viking

mission, and begun to lay the groundwork for the robotic missions to

Mars in the next decade, building on the results from the Mars Rovers

and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Next year, I hope to make plans as to

how to carry out manned missions to Mars, building on the heavy-lift

launch vehicles, landers, and other capabilities from the lunar

exploration architecture. We will especially call for the support of our

international partners for this long-term endeavor, as we build on the

relationships forged in assembling the International Space Station.

This morning, onboard the Station, American astronaut Jeff

Williams and German astronaut Thomas Reiter are preparing for a six-

hour spacewalk to install equipment and experiments around the outside

of the ISS. This spacewalk is being choreographed by Russian

Commander Pavel Vinogradev who will remain onboard the ISS and

will be televised by cameras on the Canadarm-2. Today’s spacewalk

exemplifies how nations work together at their best. We make it look

easy…perhaps even too easy, to those who are not steeped in the risks of

the space business. However, this spacewalk is not simply science

fiction. The International Space Station is our nation’s most technically

challenging project, and this spacewalk is one small step forward toward


The ISS is a scientific and engineering test bed that we must use

before embarking on long journeys to Mars. In fact, the NASA

Authorization Act designates the U.S. segment of the Space Station as a

national laboratory, and I am actively seeking partnerships with other

Federal agencies, like NSF, NIH, and the DoD, and commercial entities

who would use the ISS for their own experiments while NASA focuses

its research directly on Exploration-related missions.

For example, we know that a crew on such a long journey to Mars

will need a great deal of self-sufficiency as we break the apron-strings of

Earth. A three-person crew onboard the Space Station requires

approximately 5000 pounds of water each year. However, by

developing and testing environment and water recycling capabilities for

the ISS, the future logistics resupply required will be significantly less.

This will have far-reaching implications for future Mars missions.

Likewise, learning to use resources on the Moon and Mars must prove

far more economical than bringing those resources with us on the


In situ resource utilization, maintenance and logistics, international

partnerships, and the leveraging of commercial space capabilities will

help sustain this Vision for Space Exploration, and they are all being

tested onboard the International Space Station.

The priorities for NASA are clear. In the wake of the Columbia

tragedy, our national leadership realized that human spaceflight is today

one of those strategic capabilities that define a nation as a superpower.

And I must ask each of you this: Is it possible to envision a future in

which America is considered to be a leader in the world, if others can

and do conduct exploration and research on the Moon, Mars and beyond,

and we cannot? International cooperation, leavened by a healthy dose of

competition, is what makes America the greatest country in the world.

The ultimate goal of the Vision for Space Exploration is not to impress

others, or even merely to explore the Moon or Mars, but rather to

advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through

leadership in the grandest expression of human imagination of which we

can conceive.

We are turning science fiction into reality. We do what others


Thank you.